Hangings sharpen resentment
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- By the time the corpses of Saddam Hussein's half brother and another top official, hanged before dawn Monday, arrived in the village of Auja for burial, the word had spread among the mourners: The head of Saddam's brother had bee...
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- By the time the corpses of Saddam Hussein's half brother and another top official, hanged before dawn Monday, arrived in the village of Auja for burial, the word had spread among the mourners: The head of Saddam's brother had been severed from his body.
Many of the people who had gathered considered the decapitation of Barzan Ibrahim to be a calculated insult, another act by theShiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to humiliate followers of the executed former president and his fellow Sunni Arabs. A doctor inspected the remains to assess the explanation that the noose inadvertently took off Ibrahim's head.
"We knew that he would be executed and would join a parade of heroes, but Maliki, why did you behead him?" asked Salam al-Tikriti, 41, a relative of Ibrahim. "Why did you insult his body? Are you still afraid of him even after he is dead? We will cut your heads the same way that you are cutting the heads of the heroes of Iraq."
In many parts of Iraq, the executions set off new waves of anger and celebration along sectarian lines, though Maliki's government had gone to great pains to prevent the type of chaotic spectacle that accompanied Saddam's hanging two weeks ago, when Shiite witnesses in the execution chamber taunted Saddam.
Shiites celebrated the new executions, while Sunni politicians vented. Alaa Makki, a Sunni legislator, said that justice was done but the manner of the execution was disturbing. "Everybody knows that when you hang people, rarely the head will be decapitated from the body," he said, criticizing what he called a "revenge on the body."
"It denotes that people are very reactive and very extremist and they want revenge," he said.
Hussein al-Falluji, another Sunni legislator, called the executions "illegitimate and illegal."
The hangings drew criticism from abroad as well. The Moroccan Human Rights Association said they were a "criminal political assassination masterminded by American imperialism."
A U.N. spokesman expressed regret that Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's request to spare the two men's lives was not granted. Josi Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, said after the hangings that he would back an Italian initiative for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment under U.N. auspices.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, visiting Egypt, said she believed the hangings of Saddam and the two others were mishandled and should have been carried out with "greater dignity."
Ibrahim, who ran Saddam's intelligence service, or Mukhabarat, and Awad Haman Bander, leader of Saddam's Revolutionary Court, were put to death at 3 a.m. Monday, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said. They had been sentenced to death for their role in the killings of 148 men and boys from the Shiite village of Dujail after an assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982.
Iraqi officials denied that the decapitation was intentional, saying Ibrahim's neck had been unable to absorb the noose's force. Dabbagh described it as a "rare incident" in a hanging and said that the proceeding was marked by professionalism and restraint not shown during Saddam's execution.
For Monday's hangings, the Iraqi government restricted the witnesses to a judge, a prosecutor, a doctor, a prison warden and representatives of the Interior Ministry and the prime minister's office, Dabbagh said. They made the attendees sign documents pledging they would not misbehave, Dabbagh added.
"Everyone obeyed the instructions of the government; no violation, chant, slogans or words that would harm the execution of this verdict was registered," he said.
Iraqi officials showed silent video clips of the hangings to reporters at a news conference but did not release the footage to the public.
According to an Associated Press account of the video, the two defendants appeared side by side at the gallows wearing red prison jumpsuits. They were surrounded by five masked men and black hoods were placed over their heads. After the trap doors beneath them opened, Bander dangled from the rope, but the shock of the rope going taut severed Ibrahim's head from his body, both of which fell to the floor, the news service reported.
By 6 p.m., the bodies had arrived in Auja, about 100 miles north of Baghdad, and were greeted by more than 1,000 people. The crowd carried the corpses, wrapped in Iraqi flags, on their shoulders into a hall as chants rang out of "Allahu akbar" -- "God is greatest" -- and guns were fired into the air.
The bodies were washed and wrapped in white shrouds before being buried in a garden plot next to the hall that houses Saddam's grave. The crowd surrounded the bodies, and the sound of crying mixed with chanted praises to God.